At the end of the three Sunday Masses I celebrated last weekend, I announced that Saint Peter’s School has received a Low Power FM Radio license as long as we begin broadcasting by August 6th. I also indicated we need to raise approximately $25,000 to buy the equipment and pay for its installation in order to meet the FCC imposed deadline. As I realize all of this comes as a bit of a surprise, I’d like to briefly explain how we came to this point.
As background, in 2010, Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act President Obama signed into law in January, 2011. Concerning this, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Julius Genachowski said, “Low power FM stations are small, but they make a giant contribution to local community programming. This important law eliminates the unnecessary restrictions that kept these local stations off the air in cities and towns across the country.” LPFM licenses may be issued to non-commercial educational entities, and public safety and transportation organizations. Individuals and holders of other types of broadcast licenses are not eligible to hold an LPFM license.
Given this, proponents of Catholic radio in South Carolina met with Bishop Guglielmone seeking his endorsement to ask select Catholic schools in key coverage areas to apply for LPFM licenses. With the Bishop on board, I and other priests were asked to seek a license with the understanding Mediatrix South Carolina, a non-profit Catholic lay group of volunteers, would prepare the applications and raise the funds to bring these stations on-line. When the applications were submitted, expectations were low that all would be approved. Hence, our surprise when they were approved concurrently making the fund-raising challenge insurmountable for a small, volunteer organization.
Unlike commercial stations, LPFM stations have a modest reach. However, Saint Peter’s School FM Station will cover much of the local area with 24-hour broadcasting supplied by Mediatrix Radio SC. Currently, around 70% of the content is provided by EWTN at no cost. However, Saint Peter’s will have the ability to produce local content such as our Mass and special music, make announcements and share information of importance to us as well as import other content we value. Further, this provides our school educational opportunities to learn about this important media.
I have been asked about the long-terms costs of setting up our station. As has been explained to me, the primary cost will be that of electricity, maintenance and re-licensing fees in eight years. I would expect these costs to be $5,000 per year.
Since my request for assistance to off-set the up-front costs of setting up our radio station, two individuals, one who attended Saint Peter’s for the first time on Sunday and another who is a “part-time” member, presented checks totaling $10,000 to make this possible. Thus, we still need to raise $15,000. I believe with your help, we will have no difficulty achieving this.
In a state where only 4% are Catholic, there are no Catholic universities, our message of hope and the love of Christ can be challenging to transmit. The presence of Catholic radio in Columbia will help Saint Peter’s to spread the Good News from a Catholic perspective to vulnerable university students, military personnel and perhaps 250,000 citizens, the largest reach of any proposed Catholic LPFM station in our state. Given this, I hope you’ll help provide the balance of funds to make this possible.
Fr. Gary S. Linsky
The Very Rev. Gary S. Linsky, V.F.